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Council Tax Benefit

Volume 550: debated on Monday 17 September 2012

16. What recent representations he has received from local authorities on his plans for the localisation of council tax benefit. (120900)

Earlier this year the Government consulted on funding distribution, and we are currently consulting on arrangements for local precepting authorities. We intend to respond to the outcome of both consultations in the autumn.

(Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, nearly 50% of adults receiving council tax benefit are also receiving a disability-related benefit. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that councils take account of the public sector equality duty in devising localised systems?

The Government have given some guidelines to local authorities. I shall be happy to provide the hon. Lady with a copy, but obviously we are ensuring that local authorities have the power to decide locally what is right for their communities.

Can the Minister reassure me that under the localisation plans, old-age pensioners will be protected from any discount or other changed arrangement involving their council tax benefit?

I welcome the Minister to his post. I am sure he is aware that local government leaders say that this policy is inefficient, bureaucratic, unjust and unworkable, and I can confirm that many are referring to it as “Pickles’s poll tax”. The Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association has said that councils

“can either cease helping the working poor, or continue to support them by taking money from other services or putting up council tax.”

What does the Minister think councils should do?

I think it important for councils to realise that they are part of the economy of their area, to do what they can to inspire economic growth in order to get more people into work, and to make decisions for their local communities that are right for those communities.